Five thousand steps a day

by Debbie Carini

A lot of people don’t consider walking exercise. A rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile are burned for an 180-pound person and 65 calories per mile for a 120-pound person. So even though I walk almost every day, I am barely hoofing-off those four Girl Scout Thin Mints I ate after lunch.

I’ve tried running several times—once in college, I even entered a mini-marathon and though I was in pretty good shape at the time, I finished near the rear, with the sanitation workers cleaning up after the event.

A couple of years ago, my daughter tried to help me with a plan called “The Couch to 5K Running Program,” which involves intermittent walking and running phases to build up one’s stamina. Unfortunately, I spent much of the time almost falling off the treadmill trying to keep track of the five minutes running/10 minutes walking cycles. There are a lot of buttons on our digital treadmill display. When I was attempting this program, I grew so frustrated, I wished it would just show old episodes of Law and Order.

The thing is…I like to walk.

In an essay entitled “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau wrote,  “The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours, but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”

He also said, “Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.”

With Thoreau’s blessing, I head out the door almost every day to take in my neighborhood and ponder the big questions—usually, “What am I going to make for dinner?”

I first started walking in 1965—not baby steps but real, on-the-sidewalk legwork—when I entered the first grade. Though the term “stranger danger” wasn’t part of the lexicon in those Andy Griffith Show days, my father (an early advocate of deadbolt technology) instilled in me a fear of anyone who might stop to talk or ask directions. Once, a dear family friend pulled alongside me in his Renault (which, in that age of big cars and heavy chrome, was frightening enough in its meagerness) to offer a ride home on a rainy day, and I refused—so ingrained was my father’s mantra that I put one foot in front of the other, and head towards my destination.

As children, my sister and I walked everywhere.  On our way to school, we scampered past rickety fences where crazed, barking dogs lurched at us. And on weekends, we pushed our baby sister in a stroller around town. I use the word “push” lightly. Sometimes we ran with her, sometimes we weren’t so gentle going up and down curbs. Today, we would probably be called into question as suitable guardians and carriage operators.

After a serious illness several years ago, I started walking regularly with my mother. I estimate that we’ve logged nearly 3,000 miles, and even more importantly, innumerable hours of conversation and wonderful together-time (and, we’ve hit upon some incredible garage sales). I recently discovered that there are night hikes, walks really, in Griffith Park, high above Los Angeles. And a dear friend just walked in and out of the Grand Canyon—quite an inspiration. 

I look forward to where my feet will take me and, whether I end up on a mountaintop or just roaming about town picking up pinecones (craft possibilities!), I am happy for a daily adventure that requires little more than socks, shoes and sunblock. If you see me, be sure to wave hello!



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